A schoolteacher at Read Mountain Middle School in Botetourt, Virginia is using simple cardboard virtual reality (VR) viewers to let history come alive for her 7th Grade class.
It began when one student, Austin Amiss, obtained a free cardboard headset from a restaurant and brought it to school. Recognising the potential of the device to turn her students’ smartphones from distractions into learning tools, history teacher Katie Hutchison arranged for more of the viewers to be donated for use in the classroom.
“It was cool that we could actually go to a steel mill in Pittsburgh and get that experience and have a better appreciation for those types of roles in history. It makes the past come alive,” said Hutchison.
This is the first semester in which Hutchison has used the technology. She uses it fairly sparingly, three or four times a month and usually as an introduction to a new topic in order to get the students enthused about it. Students who have used VR are excited about it. Amiss, who initially found the VR headset, had this to say: It’s almost weird the first time you do it but then you’re like ‘wow.’ being able to experience it.”
“It’s really fun because you get to not just read from the book, from the textbook, write stuff down. You get to actually go there and see where it is and see what it looks like,” added fellow student Lindsey Boone.
The use of VR has been approved by school administration, as the use of new approaches to teaching was being encouraged by the school superintendent and other senior school staff.
“They told us they would support us no matter what it was, no matter how crazy the idea was. If it was a complete failure that was okay. They just wanted to get us thinking outside the box, increasing student engagement in our classrooms,” said Hutchison.
VRFocus will continue to report on use of VR and augmented reality (AR) in education.